A Namekian in Halkeginia
Disclaimer – I do NOT own either Dragon Ball Z or Familiar of Zero. Dragon Ball Z is owned by FUNimation, Toei Animation, Fuji TV and Akira Toriyama. Familiar of Zero is owned by the late Yamaguchi Noboru (R.I.P.).
Hello again, folks.
My apologies for the huge delay in getting this chapter out – I've been rather busy the past while contending with the rather pressing matter that we all better know as 'Life'... to put it simply.
Anyway, before we begin, I'd like to take another moment to clarify a few points regarding the story.
Now, much as it might annoy some people, I'd prefer not to have to explain every single little detail in regards to specific plot or story points (for example, Piccolo's reason(s) for accepting the familiar binding in the first place). After all, I'd like to think the readers are capable of taking the information present, and figuring things out for themselves/coming to their own conclusions, without me having to spoon feed them every single detail in order to do so.
Now, I understand that some explanation is needed for why characters would do the things they do, but divulging every single little detail in such fashion takes away from the story, in my personal opinion. Furthermore, it could even potentially ruin future plot twists, if everything is laid bare from the get go.
Another point I'd like to clarify comes in regard to Piccolo's mental blurb on Halkeginian magic at the end of the previous chapter. To clarify, willpower isn't actually a means for mages to user their 'inner mana' or other such magical energy – rather, it IS their inner energy. Hell, Louise herself even states this in the light novels; volume 4, chapter 2 to be precise.
However, willpower can also be replenished by extreme emotions, as again shown in the light novels; specifically, in volume 11, chapter 10.
And as you can probably also tell, I changed my mind and decided to scrap the bolded text for speech, thoughts, etc.
Anyway, that's enough from me – and now, on with the show.
Chapter 6: The Offer
A clear blue sky shone overhead, stretching out as far as the eye could see, with the occasional clouds dotting the skyline. Down below, the white tiled floor practically glowed from the light of the sun, the trees of the outer gardens swaying gently in the cool breeze.
And with a warping of the air, Piccolo appeared at the centre of the open floor, his white cape flapping behind him. Turning around, Namekian let his gaze sweep over his newest creation, a smirk tugging at his lips.
On the surface, this new lookout was practically identical to the original back on Earth, save for some minor differences. Most notably, the four towers surrounding the main temple were absent, as were the central tree gardens leading towards the temple. Furthermore, this lookout was slightly smaller compared to the original, though that was to be expected.
And that suited the Z Fighter just fine.
After all, more floor space meant more room for training.
Extending a hand outward, Piccolo gathered some of his energy and fired a ki blast away from the lookout, the small energy sphere racing off into the distance, and eventually disappearing from view.
Minutes later, that same orb flew past overhead, continuing in the same direction Piccolo had originally fired it. Reaching towards the speeding energy ball, the Namekian clenched his fist. The orb exploded instantaneously, briefly bathing the lookout in the intense afterglow of its detonation.
Satisfied with the end result, Piccolo turned and made for the central temple. While the exterior was sufficient enough, he would still need to check over the interior to make sure the imitation lookout would be suitable for the tasks he had in mind. Furthermore, he would also need to confirm the time differences as well, and plan around them accordingly.
Roughly an hour later, the Z Fighter re-emerged, looking rather pleased: with two sleeping quarters, a kitchen and dining area, a healing chamber, and two... specialised training rooms, the lookout was well suited for Piccolo's purposes.
However, there was still one last matter that needed tending to; and the only way to do so would be to wait it out.
So with that in mind, Piccolo turned and entered one of the sleeping quarters, located inside one of the two smaller side-temples at the side of the main temple, and disappeared inside.
A full day later, the Namekian emerged from the sleeping quarters, making his way to the centre of the surface platform. Turning to the large clock resting above the entrance to the main temple, he noted that it was just about the same time as it was when he had first arrived there the previous day.
Turning back, he placed two fingers on his forehead and concentrated his senses, focusing more than usual due to the differences in both space and time between his current location and his target.
A moment later, the Z Fighter disappeared.
Louise awoke sharply, her eyes snapping open at the sensation of a cold breeze caressing her face, her pink hair gently swaying in the wind.
Instead of being in her room, she found herself upon a small island, covered in a strange blue-coloured grass, with odd patches of barren earth scattered here and there. It was one of many islands that dotted an expansive sea of green water. Far above, a darkened sky – almost blank in colour – stretched out as far as the eye could see, and with not a single cloud in sight.
For a moment, all was peaceful, the only audible sounds being the low howling of the wind and the gentle ocean waves lapping against the grassy blue shores.
Yet despite this calm, Louise could feel an ominous pressure surrounding her, as though the very ground beneath her feet threatened to erupt at but a moment's notice. Glancing to and fro, the pinkette's nerves were on edge, her eyes darting skittishly across her surroundings as she anxiously sought out whatever was making her feel so uneasy and full of dread.
And then it happened.
With the sound of a thunderous clash, the calm winds were transformed into a frenzied gale, the once peaceful ocean waters now crashing violently against the island cliffs. Worst of all, the ground around her – as she had originally feared – was split asunder, jagged spikes of earth shooting up as the cracks and fissure spread in all directions.
Louise struggled to maintain her balance, the tremors that had appeared rumbling with such intensity that the young mage felt like the entire world around her was coming apart. However, despite the chaos unfolding around her, the small circle of land she stood directly upon remained unscathed.
Then came a shock wave from above, striking with such force that Louise was nearly blasted off her feet. Turning her gaze skyward, she felt her breath catch in her throat at the sight unfolding before her.
In the darkened sky countless miles above, was none other than Piccolo, her warrior familiar enveloped in a brilliant aura of light as he took up a battle stance. Stranger still, he wasn't alone, the young Valliere scion spotting another figure not far from the Namekian, surrounding by a similarly blinding aura of its own. Even from this distance, and despite being unable to make out any finer details, Louise could tell her familiar was locked in a devastating battle with an equally powerful enemy.
There was a brief tense stand-off, before the two combatants suddenly disappeared from sight, more intense shock waves following quickly as both Piccolo and his enemy traded blows in the skies above, Louise desperately struggling to keep up on the land below. Every time she looked, she would just catch the previous clash scant moments before the next one occurred.
This continued for several agonisingly long minutes, before both figures reappeared, this time in the air ahead of Louise. At this distance, the power behind their attacks was so great that the pinkette was forced to shield herself with her arms, lest she be sent reeling by the raging winds buffeting her diminutive form.
Taking a chance, Louise peered through her crossed arms, only to gasp in shock and awe as she finally caught sight of the battle up close. Only a dozen or so metres away, her familiar floated in the air, locked in battle with his towering opponent – a giant being even bigger than Piccolo himself!
With a white and purple body, muscular pink limbs, an equally muscular and purple-tipped pink tail, and two fearsome looking black horns adorning its head, the entity fighting her familiar was a terrifying sight to behold, its maniacal smile harshly contrasting with Piccolo's angered snarl.
After trading a series lightning fast series of blows so quick that they were simply a blur to the awestruck youth, the two opponents shot away from one another. Then, with two equally furious battle cries, they blasted forwards, each rearing back with one arm, ready to deliver a savage head-on attack.
And when they met, their fists collided with an unfathomable force that practically tore reality apart.
The moment their attacks struck, an immense flash of light exploded into existence...and everything turned white.
With a sharp yelp, Louise jerked upright in her bed, panting raggedly as beads of cold sweat rolled down her head. Taking in her surroundings with bleary eyes, she realised she was back in her bed, within the safety of her dorm room.
And there, leaning against the wall next to the bottom of the bed, was Piccolo. Her familiar quirked an eyebrow, glancing at her in a curious fashion.
She could also have sworn he was smirking at her, though it was too hard to tell on account of her currently blurred vision and semi-awakened state.
"Up nice and early, I see," the Namekian commented, watching his pint-sized summoner rub her eyes vigorously.
Ignoring his remark, the young Valliere child turned to the open window, noting that it was still dark outside. Suddenly, memories of the previous day flooded her mind: the early morning 'talk', the accident in the classroom...
...and the duel between Piccolo and Guiche.
With a shake her head, Louise pushed those thoughts aside and focused on the present; yet before she could ask why her familiar had woken her so early for the second day in a row, her eyes registered something that hadn't been present the previous night.
"What is that?" the pinkette said, pointing towards the strange stone pillar situated in one of the far corners of the room. However, it wasn't so much the pillar itself which caught her attention, as it was the small odd-looking glass sphere sitting squarely on top of it.
"That is the reason I was planning to wake you just now, but you seem to have taken care of that yourself," Piccolo replied as he reached into his gi, and pulled out a small circular object of some kind, before glancing down at it momentarily. With a satisfied grin, he put the item away and turned back to his summoner. "Anyway, before we get started I need to bring someone else here. In the meantime I'd suggest you get yourself ready, because we'll have a lot to talk about when I get back."
With that, her familiar placed two fingers to his head, and suddenly vanished from sight, leaving a surprised Louise alone and doing her best impression of a fish out of water, before quickly scrambling out of her bed. Minutes later, the pinkette stood messily dressed in her school uniform, all the while trying to figure out what her familiar was up to.
This didn't last long though, for as quickly as he had disappeared, said familiar flickered back into existence only moments later. This time, however, he wasn't alone.
"Siesta?" the young Valliere stared perplexedly at the sight of the dark-haired maid, the sound of her voice causing the young woman to spin around on the spot.
Siesta merely blinked a few times in return, before looking to the one who brought her there. "Why are we in Miss Valliere's room, Piccolo?"
However, the Namekian never responded, instead walking over to the stone pillar and placing on hand upon the glass sphere resting atop it before gesturing for the two young girls to join him. Sharing a fleeting look of uncertainty, Louise and Siesta quickly followed suit, moving to either side of the towering Z Fighter. Looking down, they found their eyes transfixed on the glass sphere, which almost looked like it was sparkling or shimmering with an unusual light.
"Piccolo?" Louise asked tentatively, eyes shifting warily between her familiar and the strange clear orb.
"Everything will become clear shortly," he returned tersely, eyes never leaving the sphere in his grip. "Now grab on, both of you."
The two girls shared a momentary glance; and after figuring it was the best way to actually get some answers, carefully took a grip of Piccolo's belt.
The moment they did, a blinding light burst forth from the glass orb atop the pillar. An electrifying jolt ran down their spines. The hairs on the backs of their necks stood on end, their arms tingling as otherworldly energies coursed through all the nerves in their bodies. For the two youths, it was as if lightning surged through them, their diminutive forms practically locking up as the strangely painless sensations continued to wash over them.
And then, with a flash of light, the trio disappeared, leaving only an empty room behind.
The first thing they noticed was the feeling of cool air caressing their faces, along with the low whistle of blowing winds that reached their ears.
Opening their eyes, Louise and Siesta gasped in unison at the sight that greeted them.
Gone were the familiar surroundings of the young pinkette's dorm room, instead replaced by the unfamiliar sight of a large circular platform that extended all around them. At each of the platform's four 'corners' sat a small garden, tall trees swaying gently in the breeze. Most notable, however, was the presence of a large temple-like structure, with two smaller temples situated on either side. Up above, the dazzling sun shone brilliantly, with faint clouds dotting the clear blue sky.
For several long minutes, the two Halkeginians stood practically motionless, save for the back and forth turning of their heads as they tried desperately to make sense of where they were. Eventually, the sound of a fluttering cape snapped them from their stupor, the two youths turning to find the Namekian towering over them.
"Where are we!?" Louise gasped, eyeing her familiar accusingly. One minute, they were standing around the odd stone pillar within her room; the next, they were here... wherever 'here' was, exactly.
"W-What is this place?" squeaked an anxious Siesta, her bewilderment as plain as the nose on her face.
Piccolo just smirked. If their current reactions were anything to go by, then he couldn't wait to see the looks on their faces when they found out exactly where they were.
"That glass dome I was holding?" he began, eliciting several confused blinks from the two girls. The confusion faded, slowly yet visibly morphing into shock as the proverbial penny finally dropped.
"We're inside it."
The awkward silence that followed was so think that it could practically be touched.
"We're WHAT!?" they eventually yelled in utter disbelief; so loudly, in fact, that the Namekian had almost winced.
"Like I said, we're inside the dome," the towering familiar repeated in an even tone, the smirk dropping from his face when he cracked his neck.
Once again, Louise found herself clutching her head, pink hair spilling downwards as her shoulders sagged. This was just madness – how could they possibly be inside some tiny glass dome, sitting atop some random stone pillar in the corner of her room? It just didn't make any sense.
Then again, a lot of things about the current situation didn't make much sense, either. For one, it was most certainly before dawn when they were back in her room, yet the midday sun shining brightly above them definitely said otherwise. The lack of any visible terrain beyond the edge of the platform itself was also quite strange. In fact, despite standing roughly near the centre, the two girls got the distinct impression they weren't anywhere near the ground, mainly from the lack of any visible horizon past the platform's edge.
Letting out a deflated sigh, the young Valliere straightened up and turned to her guardian, a look of resignation on her face. "We really are inside it, aren't we?"
Her familiar simply nodded.
"Well then, why are we... here?" the small mage continued, her vexation shifting to curiosity. Obviously, Piccolo had some kind of reason for dragging them to this unusual place, at who knows what time in the morning; and despite the small part of her that wasn't entirely sure if she wanted to know what the Namekian was up to, she steeled her resolve and pressed on. "While we're at it, where exactly is 'here', anyway?"
"This," the Z Fighter began, gesturing their surroundings. "Is a copy of an ancient lookout from my home; one that orbits high above the Earth."
That got their attention. Louise and Siesta swept their wide-eyed gazes across their surroundings once more, that new information slowly sinking in. "Something from Piccolo's home?" they wondered, almost in synch, before their thoughts were interrupted.
"As for why I brought you both here," he began, the two youths faltering under the hard gaze Piccolo levelled on them. "I'm offering you a choice."
Both maid and mage eyed the Namekian curiously, wondering what he meant by 'choice'; and when no reply came forth, the Z Fighter took their silence as an unspoken signal to carry on.
"Put simply, you each have a hidden potential lying dormant within you," Piccolo explained, pointing a finger at each of them. "A potential which, with the right training, can be unleashed."
The girls' curiosity swiftly changed to sceptical confusion at that last remark. If they were being honest with themselves, both Louise and Siesta found the idea hard to accept. After all, Siesta was just a simple unremarkable commoner, while Louise was a struggling mage with an almost infamous record of failed spell casting attempts – familiar summoning ritual aside. As such, they were hardly the most believable candidates for possessing an kind of latent, untapped power.
"You can't be serious, Piccolo," Louise said with a shake of her head, dismissing the idea as nonsense. However, she couldn't help but feel a nervous tingle in her gut, when the stony expression on her familiar's face never changed.
"I-I'm just a simple village girl from outside the academy," Siesta interjected, glancing up at the Namekian while hesitantly fiddling with her hands. "How could I possibly have any kind of... hidden potential?"
"Because I can sense it within both of you."
Piccolo regarded them for a moment, gauging their startled reactions, before crossing his arms again and levelling them with another heavy stare, causing both girls to visibly flinch. "And that's why I'm offering to train you."
"Train us?" Louise inquired, that same nervous tingle from before now creeping up her spine. "What do you mean by that?"
"Simple," Piccolo replied, letting his answer linger for a moment, the appearance of his already signature smirk unnerving the two perplexed youths.
"I can train you to fight like I do."
Again, stunned silence followed, the only audible sound being that of the rolling winds sweeping across the lookout.
Louise and Siesta were now openly staring at the Namekian as if he had sprouted an extra pair of arms. They had both been there for his 'duel' with Guiche... if such an utterly one-sided spectacle could even be called as much. They had both seen what Piccolo was capable of, and how he had bested a mage – albeit a dot-class one, but a mage nonetheless – with almost ridiculous ease.
And now here he was, in his own words, proposing to train them to fight like he did.
To the girls, the very notion that either of them could possibly wield the kind of power that Piccolo appeared capable of throwing around was just... inconceivable.
This was further compounded by their strong suspicion that the Namekian hadn't even shown entirely what he was capable of, making the idea seem even more outrageous the more they thought about it.
And yet, Piccolo's expression remained unchanging, the giant warrior still wearing that same stony-faced look that said 'I am deadly serious about this'... and that in itself made this all the more surreal.
As for Piccolo, he could already see the cogs beginning to turn in their minds, the distant look in both Louise and Siesta's eyes telling him all he needed to know; but he wasn't done just yet.
"Now, before either of you get any ideas, let me make it perfectly clear why I'm giving you this choice," he barked, the hard edge to his tone snapping the girls from their trance-like state. Once he had their attention, he began his explanation.
"In your case," Piccolo began, pointing towards Louise. "We both know I won't be sticking around forever. After all, I fully intend on returning to my own world, which means I won't be here to protect you. So, I figure the best way I can protect you, is to teach you to protect yourself."
"As for you," He continued, turning towards Siesta. "Despite what little I've seen, there's something oddly familiar about the martial arts you practise, so I want to find out why that is. Besides, it would be a waste to let the kind of potential I'm sensing from within you be squandered, to be perfectly honest."
"Now be warned: the training itself won't simply be some one-day or one-week routine to unlock your potential," the Namekian began, the look in his eyes practically boring a hole through his young summoner and the raven-haired maid. "My training will make you hurt; it will make you bleed; and it will push you to the breaking point: mentally, physically, spiritually... and then some."
Louise and Siesta instinctively stepped backwards, exchanging looks of uncertainty as they tried to imagine what kind of sadistic torture Piccolo was hinting at.
"If you accept my training, then you're in it for the long haul." he barked again, his continued glare causing them to recoil again. "Furthermore you only get one shot at this. If you commit to this, then you will see it through to the end, even if I have to drag your unconscious asses there myself."
"However, that doesn't mean I won't tolerate mistakes. After all, that's a central part of learning: you try, you either succeed or fail, and depending on the outcome, you either learn from your mistakes and improve, or simply move on to the next challenge." The Z Fighter paused, gauging their reactions, and giving them a chance to process his warnings. After all, if they were going to take up his offer, then he was going to make damn sure they were knew exactly what they were getting themselves into. "However, I won't tolerate any half-assed bullshit either. So, if you decide it's too hard or too tough, then you're more than welcome to quit."
"But be warned: you won't get a second chance. So, if you decide to undertake my training, then it's all or nothing," The Namekian finished, his steely gazed still locked on the two girls before him. "Understood?"
Another pause followed, this time longer than before. Louise and Siesta continued to gaze at Piccolo with great apprehension, unsure of what to make of what he had just told them.
One on hand, here was the pinkette's exceptionally powerful familiar, offering to train them how to fight like he did, and to harness a power similar to his own. On the other hand, he was explicitly warning them that he would put them though near literal hell in order to do so.
In all honesty, they weren't entirely sure what to make of it all. In the end, they eventually nodded, having at least understood what their options were: either take this supposed 'training from hell', or don't.
"Good," Piccolo smirked. At least they understood what was in store for them... or so he hoped. Besides, even if they didn't right now, they soon would if they decided to accept his offer. "Now, since I understand this is a big decision to make, I won't ask for an answer right away. So, take some time to think about it, and you can decide what to do later. Clear?"
The sigh of relief from both girls was all Piccolo needed to hear.
"So, what now?" Louise asked, now that the matter was settled, at least for the time being.
"We leave," her familiar replied flatly. "Now grab on."
With out hesitation, the two girls grabbed a hold of Piccolo's belt again, and with another flash, they all vanished.
As quickly as they had left, the trio reappeared within Louise's room. The pinkette and the maid both wasted no time making sure that this was all real, and not just some crazy dream or hallucination. Once they were certain that the room around them – along with everyone and everything in it – was indeed real, they turned back to the towering Namekian.
"Like I said, you've got some time to figure out what you want to do," Piccolo glanced between the two girls, noting the thoughtful looks in their eyes. "Though for now, you'll probably want to get yourselves ready for your classes and work."
"Actually, that won't be necessary," Louise replied, earning quirked eyebrow from her familiar. "Today is the Day of the Void, so there are no classes scheduled for us."
"Likewise, my own duties for the day will be more relaxed than normal," Siesta added with a short nod. "Even so, I must get going; I still have duties to attend to, lighter as they may be."
With a short bow, the maid bid them a good day, and departed for the school kitchens, leaving the petite girl and her towering guardian alone once more. Glancing down at the diminutive mageling, Piccolo noted the distant look in her eyes, her mind no doubt struggling to processing what had just occurred.
"Well, since you've got the day off, what's the plan?" the Namekian asked, crossing his arms as he looked down towards his young summoner.
"Um..." Lousie hummed pensively, her train of thought brought to a swift halt. Just then, she snapped her fingers, her face lighting up as an idea sprang to mind. "Oh, I know. We can take a trip into the city, and stretch our legs for a bit."
Piccolo turned and gazed out of the window, tending to his own thoughts momentarily, before returning his gaze to his young charge. "Not a bad idea, actually. So, when do we leave?"
"I'd like to get breakfast first, so that I'm not travelling on an empty stomach." Louise answered as she gathered some simple travel supplies together. "After that, we can leave whenever suits best."
"Works for me," the Z-Fighter responded with a nod – and with that, their plans for the day were set.
Once breakfast was taken care of, Louse and Piccolo left for the nearby Tristainian capital city. Louise had originally intended for them to travel there by horse; however, with Piccolo's larger-than-normal size and height, it was decided that they would travel by foot instead, due to the fact that none of the horses available at the academy would likely be able to carry him. Piccolo had suggested that Louise could have just borrowed a horse for herself, but the young mage insisted that she walk along side her guardian, partly due to her pride, and partly to show Piccolo she was indeed taking their discussion from the previous day seriously.
They eventually reached the capital after some hours of steady walking, though with a somewhat out of breath Louise regretting the decision to let her pride dictate that she travel by foot. The physical exertion in simply walking from the Academy had surprised her, with the pinkette wondering if perhaps she'd grown to used to relying on horses for longer travels... something she would certainly have to remedy, especially if she decided to take up Piccolo on his earlier offer.
"I did say you could have taken a horse for just yourself, you know," Piccolo said in joking mockery at his summoner's discomfort.
"I'll... be fine..." Louise panted out, at the same time throwing her familiar a sideways glance while hunching over, both hands gripping her knees as she tried to calm her ragged breath. "Just... need a moment..."
Once she had caught her breath, the two made their way through the crowded streets, with Louise pointing out various places, landmarks, and other items of interest within the city. As they picked their way through the crowd, Piccolo took in the sights and sounds of the city. There were ordinary people briskly walking or frantically running, merchants peddling their wares from road-side stalls, and groups of children either playing in side-streets or snaking their way through the crowded throng.
It actually reminded him somewhat of the cities back on Earth, albeit that places like West and Central City were much, much larger than anything he had encountered here so far. For example, most of the 'main streets' they had travelled down had been little bigger than some suburban walkways he'd seen before. Likewise, even some of the smallest dwellings in Earth's cities dwarfed most of the buildings surrounding them.
And just like on Earth, there were no shortage of strange looks and expressions being thrown his way. It seemed that no matter where he wound up, it took little more than the mere sight of him to elicit suspicion, uncertainty, and in some cases outright fear; and like back on Earth – on account of the past actions of his 'father', King Piccolo – the Namekian figured there was probably some reason for it. Most likely, it was something to do with these 'elves' that kept being mentioned around him, whatever those were.
In the end, though, it made no difference to Piccolo himself, and he would pay it no heed... or at least, that would be the case as long as it didn't become a problem, either for him or his young charge.
"...and here we have 'Bourdonné Street', one of Tristain's widest avenues," Louise stated with a sweeping gesture and a hint of pride in her words, her voice pulling the Z Fighter from his musings. "Finally, the Royal Palace is just up ahead."
"One of the 'widest', huh?" Piccolo raised an eye ridge at the pinkette, then turned his gaze across their surroundings. "No offence, but I've seen bigger sidewalks in East City."
After giving her guardian a questioning glance, Louise just shook her head and sighed. "Anyway, those are most of the noteworthy places within the capital," the pinkette finished with a brief smile, looking around once more before turning back to her giant of a familiar. "Anyway, what should we do next?"
However, her question was abruptly cut short, the sounds of clattering wood, sloshing water and raised voices alerting them to a nearby commotion. Turning their attentions in the direction of the noise, the two companions were greeted by a rather unpleasant sight.
A short distance away, two individuals appeared to be engaged in a dispute of some kind... or at least, one of them appeared to be causing the dispute.
On one side, there was an older looking man – no doubt a noble, Piccolo figured, given the rather expensive looking outfit, neatly trimmed brown hair and goatee, and signature cape that all nobles apparently wore – while on the other there was a young freckle-faced boy with light blond hair, decked out in more common looking garb.
Judging from the slowly expanding pool of water, the discarded wooden bucket at the boy's feet, and the noble's water-drenched shirt, there had been an accident of some kind – most likely a collision between the two, and one that the noble was not at all pleased about.
And unsurprisingly, while the commotion had attracted some onlookers, many of the passing citizens simply kept their heads down and carried on their way, not willing to get themselves caught up in whatever an angry noble was involved with.
"Just look at what you've done, you miserable oaf," the older noble barked, his lips curled into a nasty sneer. "I hope you realise how expensive this outfit was, because it's now ruined thanks to your clumsiness."
The blond boy hastily went to scoop up his fallen water bucket, at the same time offering a low bow to the offended nobleman. "D-deepest apologies, Milord... it-it was an honest mistake, I swear," the boy quickly stuttered as he retrieved his container, clearly nervous at the thought of incurring the nobleman's ire, as seen in the unsteady fashion in which he bowed a second time. "I-I'll be more than happy to do whatever I can to make up for it."
"Make up for it?" the brown-haired noble snapped back incredulously, the furious glare in his eyes clearly visible as he stomped toward the trembling youth. "A whelp like yourself likely couldn't rub two gold coins together to save his life, much less the amount required to even think of replacing my shirt."
The freckled lad stumbled backwards at this latest outburst, and in such a panicked manner that he slipped and lost his footing, landing messily on his backside, his wooden bucket clattering to the ground once again. Meanwhile, the offended noble was now looming over him, still wearing that same venomous sneer on his face as he reached back with an open hand. "Well, perhaps it would do best to teach you a lesson for your mistake."
While this was going on, Louise couldn't help but look on with concern; partly because of how young the boy looked, but mainly because of how this might look to Piccolo, given her guardian's potentially dim view of the nobility after what had happened with Guiche.
That, and how his potential reaction upon seeing such a display.
Unfortunately, any musings regarding Piccolo's potential reaction to this unfolding scene were brought to a swift halt by the voice of the Namekian himself.
Louise quickly spun round, only to find the space where her familiar had literally just been standing now worryingly vacant.
"Oh no..." she gasped quietly, eyes widening as a sickening sensation of dread formed in the pit of her stomach.
A chill shot down the young Halkeginian's spine, and as if in response, there was a sudden startled yelp coming from the commotion ahead, followed by several gasps and cries of shock from the gathered bystanders. Snapping her head back round, Louise was greeted by the terrifying sight of Piccolo towering over the angry noble, a very displeased look on his face, and the older man's raised arm gripped tightly in one hand.
"Who... who or what in hell are you supposed to be?" the nobleman spat at the sight of the towering green-skinned warrior, trying to contain his great displeasure at this unexpected turn of events. "And what do you think you're doing, putting your hands on a noble like this?"
"Funny," the irate Namekian growled down at the bearded man with narrowed eyes. "I could ask you the same thing about attacking that kid."
The disbelief was practically etched onto the brown-haired mage's features, mouth agape at such a blatant and open display of defiance towards both a member of the nobility. Meanwhile, the young freckle-faced lad, taking the presented opportunity, quickly snatched up his wooden bucket and darted off into the crowd, his escape going thankfully unnoticed.
"This does not concern you, you... greenskin," the man snarled back, eyes leering balefully at the Z Fighter. "Now, unhand me this instant, before I make you regret such impudence!"
A sly smirk appearance on Piccolo's lips upon hearing the demand. "If you insist..."
With barely a hint of his inherent strength, Piccolo pushed the mage's arm aside with such force that the man was nearly taken off his feet. The nobleman stumbling back several paces before he regained his balance, his ornately embroidered cape flapping about behind him.
"That does it... time you learned your place, you oversized barbarian," the man snarled at the Namekian, now openly glaring at the being who dared mock him in such a fashion.
At that, the mage's sneer turned to a malicious grin, and with a flick of his wrist, a concealed wand slide out from the right sleeve of his overcoat. As soon as the wand came into view, panicked cries arose from the watching crowd, with many of the bystanders rapidly retreating from the developing confrontation, so as not to be caught in the seemingly impending crossfire.
Louise, though a little farther away, had also pulled back – while Piccolo had indeed seen off Guiche with practically no effort, he was still only a student at the academy. This time, however, he was dealing with a fully fledged mage of currently unknown rank and ability. Of course, Louise knew full well that trying to stop Piccolo at this point would be nothing more than an exercise in futility; it was obvious from the moment the boy had fallen that he was going to step in, and there was nothing she could have done to stop him, Piccolo's unusual powers aside.
Glancing over his shoulder at the withdrawing crowd, Piccolo let out a small sigh then turned his attention back to the mage now threatening him, slowly shaking his head. A full day hadn't even passed, yet here he was being challenged to a fight once more.
Unfortunately, while the incident with Guiche had been nicely contained within the Academy, the situation here was at greater risk of causing unwanted collateral damage; while the Namekian was certain he could easily take care of this new aggressor, on account of the rather middling energies he was sensing from within the man, there was no telling how quickly this new mage could fire off one of his spells – and while it was highly likely any attack would have no effect on Piccolo himself, the was still the risk of some of innocent bystanders being caught in the process, even if they were now a fair distance from the dispute.
Piccolo looked down for a moment, eyes fixing onto the wand, before returning his gaze to the enraged mage. Then, in a surprising change of pace, the Namekian gave a disdainful snort, turned around, and began walking away. The motion elicited a surprised reaction from both the noble himself and the remaining onlookers, Louise included, having expected a head-on clash to unfold before them.
"Wh-where do you think you're going?" the brown-haired nobleman spluttered, taken aback by this unexpected turn. "You would dare turn your back on a noble like this?"
Without even looking back, Piccolo threw the mage a last retort. "I'm not wasting my time here... and I suggest you do the same."
The Namekian had no time for such hollow posturing, and with any luck, the man would take the hint and drop the matter there, thus bypassing yet another pointless confrontation.
Unfortunately, this proved to be anything but the case.
"Why you..." the noble growled under his breath, the malicious sneer returning to his lips, only to then be replaced by another sinister grin "Well, if that's how you want to act, then so be it!"
Raising his wand, the older mage chanting a quick incantation, then thrust his implement forward with a yell of finality. The moment he did, a large gout of flame exploded from the tip of the wand, and surged towards Piccolo's back. Crying out a desperate warning, Louise watched in horror as the Namekian turned towards the oncoming attack, and was swallowed whole by the rushing flames, her protector completely disappearing amidst the trail of fire that extended for a good several meters before finally dying out.
And with that, the attack was over as quickly as it had started, leaving only an swirling cloud of blackened smoke in its path.
Louise felt that same sickening dread from before return to her stomach, the thought of her familiar perishing right before her very eyes being too much to bear. At the same time, several hushed gasps and whispers arose from the lingering observers, all but certain that the brave, if bizarre individual was now dead. So too was the bearded mage, a sickeningly triumphant grin plastered on his face at the apparent outcome of his sneak-attack.
"You see!" He cried out, arms outstretched at either side. "This is what happens to those who so openly oppo-"
"So, do you nobles always wait until your opponents' backs are turned... or is this just a special occasion?"
The mage choked out a startled gasp, cries of shock and alarm erupted from the gathered crowd, and Louise started in open-mouthed disbelief as the smoke slowly dispersed, revealing a still very much alive Piccolo, looking almost untouched save for some very light singeing around the edges of his clothing... and with his back still turned to the mage who had just attacked him.
Glancing over his shoulder at his would be attacker, Piccolo shot a pissed off glare at the underhanded nobleman. "Well, which is it?"
However, instead of giving an answer, the man simple growled and raised his wand again, preparing for another attack. Unfortunately, he never got any further than that, as with one swift motion, Piccolo turned to face his opponent, eyes locking firmly onto the furious mage.
Then, to the amazement of everyone watching, his eyes flashed with light for all of a split-second.
And the moment they lit up, the Namekian's would-be attacker was viscously blasted off his feet, a small yet visible shock wave exploding into existence right in front of him. The sudden attack completely rocked the unsuspecting mage, launching him several meters though the air, before he landed in messy heap farther down the road, his wand falling from his grasp in the process and landing a short distance away.
The nobleman, still reeling from the unseen blow, clumsily rolled over and began reaching towards his fallen implement, desperate for a means with which to protect himself. Sadly, any chance of turning his currently dire situation around was dashed right in front of his eyes, when a large brown-clothed boot seemingly materialised out of thin air and came stomping down upon the wand, shattering it into countless ruined pieces.
Shakily craning his neck upwards, the mage felt his blood run cold at the chilling sight of the green-skinned giant looming over him, a noticeably visible fury burning within his angry eyes. His towering attacker then lashed out with a right hand, faster than the eye could see, and clamped a vice-like grip around the nobleman's neck before lifting him into the air with utterly trivial ease.
"Let this be a lesson," Piccolo barked loudly, his steely gaze never leaving the mage's fearful eyes as the man in his iron grip gasped for air. "If I ever catch you, or anyone else like you pulling this kind of shit again, then this will be nothing compared to what I do next time."
The Namekian then casually tossed the dishevelled nobleman backwards, the man landing with an audible thud roughly a dozen or so feet away, eliciting another burst of disbelieving gasps and murmurs from the nearby crowd; and despite never taking his eyes off the fallen noble, it was clear from the harsh edge in his voice that the Z Fighter's declaration was meant for more than just his opponent.
"Now get lost."
Groggily clambering to his feet, the brown-haired mage stumbled back several paces, before turning and running as fast as his unsteady legs would carry him, occasionally throwing terrified glances back at the towering fighter as he departed. Once the mage was out of sight, the Namekian turned and surveyed the area; and when it was clear that no real damage had been done, save for the charred ground upon which he had previously been standing.
Once satisfied that no bystanders had been involved, Piccolo marched back over to his dumbstruck young summoner, many of the nearby commoners parting to allow the towering warrior through. The pinkette was once again doing her best imitation of a floundering fish, her gaping mouth opening and closing repeatedly while she continued to stare at the approaching Namekian. From what she had just witnessed, that bearded mage had to have been at least a line-class magic user, given the strength of the spell he had cast, though the speed at which he had pulled off the incantation suggested he was possibly even triangle-class...
In the end, though, it didn't matter what the nobleman's magic rank had been; Piccolo had still brushed him aside with almost frightening ease... including taking a fire spell head-on without even the slightest hint of being affected by it.
"W-What..." Louise stuttered out as her familiar drew close, her mind frantically trying to make sense of what had just happened. "What was that?"
"Nothing," the Z-Fighter replied flatly, his gaze still focused ahead. "Now come on, it's probably time we headed back – unless, of course, you'd rather stay here."
The young mageling shook her head back and forth, vigorously trying to shake off the stupor she had fallen into. "Uh, y-yes... probably a good idea."
With that, the two turned and made for the nearest city gateway, a bewildered Louise jogging skittishly in order to keep up with her marching protector. With any luck, she and Piccolo could get back to the academy unnoticed, and avoid taking any unwanted attention back with them; after all, the last thing she needed was more gossip and rumours surrounding her and her otherworldly familiar.
However, the four sets of eyes following the duo intently from a nearby threatened to jeopardise any such hopes.
"...tell me you all saw that," a stunned Kirche asked the rest of the group.
The petite bluenette simply nodded in response. "Very strong," Tabitha then said, a concerned frown lining her brow.
"That's putting it very lightly, don't you think?" an anxious Montmorency cried in astonishment. "You ask me, that doesn't even begin to cover what we just witnessed..."
"No... if anything, all this does is confirm that there's much more to this 'Piccolo' than we know about," the blonde continued pensively, one finger lightly pressed against her lips. "And to be completely honest, that's exactly what scares me..."
"N-Now now, let's not be too hasty, my dear," a somewhat anxious Guiche chimed in, waving his hands in a protesting fashion. "After all, he did step in to protect that commoner. Besides, that noble did throw the first punch... proverbially speaking, of course."
"Well, how do you explain Piccolo defeating him without lifting a finger?" the Germanian redhead questioned with a disbelieving tone. "I mean, we all saw it: Piccolo just looked at him and then BAM, he was knocked flat on his arse."
"Unknown power... possibly not magic..." the young Gallian suddenly spoke up, earning startled stares from the others.
A noticeable silence quickly followed, the four students sharing uneasy looks amongst themselves. Indeed, the most worrying part of this whole matter was that Piccolo's powers apparently weren't even magical in nature – or at least, they certainly didn't appear to be; and like the confrontation with Guiche, this newest incident only raised further questions as to what exactly the walking enigma called 'Piccolo' was capable of.
"Anyway, I think it would be wise to head back to the academy," Kirche eventually suggested, finally regaining her composure after letting out a breath she hadn't realised she was holding. "At this point, I don't think there's any reason to hang around the city."
Several nods followed the redhead's statement, and with no objections forthcoming, the four students quietly exited the alleyway and made for the city gates.
"So, there's nothing more you can tell us?"
"Unfortunately not, I'm afraid... this is a rather unprecedented situation we have on our hands."
"I see," said the black-hair martial artist as he crossed his arms, a pensive expression worn on his face. "Thanks anyway, King Kai."
"Don't worry about it, Goku," the pint-sized deity responded. "The other Kais are scouring each of their galaxies as we speak, and both the Old Kai and Kibito Kai are exploring any other possibilities they can think of in relation to Piccolo's disappearance, so I'm sure we'll find out something soon enough."
"Yeah, I guess you're right - well, let me know if you find anything, okay?" the Saiyan replied with a smile.
"No problem!" the Kai returned with an unseen grin before closing the telepathis link between the two. Releasing his mental focus, Goku let out a low sigh and crossed his arms, an uncertain look in his eyes.
"Still nothing?" came the gruff voice of Vegeta, the Saiyan Prince having been standing next to Goku the entire time his fellow Saiyan was telepathically conversing with the Northern Kai. His close friend and former rival simply sighed again and shook his head, the only other audible sound being that of the low winds sweeping across the grassy plains near the Son family home.
Vegeta narrowed his eyes with an unhappy scowl, and turned towards the evening sun as it dipped behind the mountains off in the distance. "I don't like this, Kakarot... not one bit."
"Vegeta?" Goku asked, his friend's sudden outburst earning an arched brow from the normally jovial saiyan.
"Barring ourselves and Gohan, Piccolo is one of the strongest fighters on the planet... and even then, at full power he's only just shy of our own capabilities," the Saiyan prince stated without taking his eyes off the fading sunlight. "So for someone of his calibre to just up and disappear like this... yeah, you're damn right if you think this doesn't sit well with me."
Despite hardly being the closest of friends, Vegeta would at least admit to having a respect for Piccolo's battle prowess and fighting ability over the years; even then, it was still surprising for Goku to hear his fellow Saiyan say as much, given the Vegeta's normally frank mannerisms.
"Look, I'm sure he'll be fine," Goku stated in a reassuring tone, his trademark grin appearing on his lips. "This is Piccolo we're talking about, after all – whatever it is, I'm sure he can handle it."
The shorter Saiyan gave his companion a brief questioning look, before turning back to the setting sun.
"I hope you're right, Kakarot."
And there we go – took much longer than I'd have liked, but we're here anyway.
Anyway, I guess you could call this the first major divergence from canon FoZ/ZnT events – and yes, some of you were correct with earlier assumptions in your reviews (at least, in regards to the set-up I have planned for Louise and Piccolo's situation). Now, I know some of you might not be particularly fond of the idea, but at the very least, I would ask you not to dismiss it outright, without at least giving it a chance to see where it goes.
Also, I fully realise that the fight in this chapter – if you could call it that – comes off as just feeding some random no-name enemy to Piccolo in order to big him up to the FoZ/ZnT folks; but really, we're talking about a post-buu saga Piccolo who has also had some timeskip-style powering up, so personally I think it's fairly logical to assume that, barring some seriously high-end interpretations of elemental/void magic capabilities, there's little to nothing on the FoZ/ZnT side of things that can actually threaten Piccolo.
Anyway, my apologies once again for the lengthy delay in getting this chapter out. I appreciate how patient anyone still following this story must be, to have waited as long as this for an update; for that, you have my thanks – after all, I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't think anyone would actually enjoy reading it.
Anyway, thanks for sticking around, and I'll see you guys next chapter... whenever that may be (hopefully, in less time than this one took).